Saturday, February 27, 2016

Singer Songwriter

When I was younger I never had crushes on TV or movie stars.  Still don’t.  Just now for this post I tried to think of the name of any TV or movie star I thought was attractive.  I could not think of any.  That might say more about my memory or the fact I am terrible with names but I think it’s because I have never found a TV or movie star attractive enough to bother to remember their name.  If asked while watching a movie if I find the actress good looking or not I’m sure there are plenty I would answer “yes she’s good looking.”  But I view the characters in movies as fake and therefore I don’t find them attractive.  Although they might be good looking, I can tell nothing about who they really are by watching their movies.  Just not attracted to make-believe characters.  To find someone attractive I need to know something about them.  Simply being good looking will not do.    

潘越雲 Performing in a Taipei hotel lounge June 18, 1983.
Singer songwriters are different.  I have found many singer songwriters attractive.  It must be because they share their stories, feelings and emotions in their songs and it’s like I get to know them a little. I know it’s impossible to really get to know someone through the songs they write and sing but it’s a lot more to go on than someone pretending to be someone else in front of a camera.  

I still find many singer songwriters attractive but when I was younger you could go as far as saying I had a crush on one, 潘越雲 (Pan Yue-Yun).  When I was 21 I spent the summer in Taiwan.  I bought many cheap pirated cassette tapes in hopes of finding some Chinese artists that I liked.  To help learn Chinese I would translate the lyrics of songs I particularly liked.  It didn’t take long to discover 潘越雲 and she soon became my favorite.  She has a beautiful voice and if I remember correctly she wrote many of the songs she sang.  I not only bought pirated tapes of all her albums (so I could listen to them on an old cassette player I had in Taiwan), but I also bought official vinyl copies of all her albums so I could listen to good quality recordings when I got back home.  

One day while on a bus in Taipei I spotted her name written on a sign outside a hotel.  I quickly read the rest of the sign the best I could.  She was going to be performing at this hotel the following week.  I don’t remember if I got off the bus at the next stop and went to the hotel or just jotted down the name of the hotel and called them later.  I do remember inquiring about tickets.  I wanted to make sure I got to see her.  I was told there were no tickets and she would be performing in the hotel lounge.  She was a very popular star in Taiwan.  Everyone knew who she was.  I often heard her songs playing in stores and I watched her music videos on TV in the evenings.  I worried that I would not be able to get into the show.  

On the day of the show I was prepared.  I got there very early.  I brought along my camera as well as one of her albums and a marker in case I got the opportunity for an autograph.  The lounge was not very big and just a few people were there.  I took a seat at a bar that wrapped around the piano and stage.  I figured I better order something to eat or drink.  I got the cheapest thing they had, fried rice and tea.  I ate as slow as I possible could to kill time before the performance started.  The lounge never did fill up.  There were probably no more than a dozen people there when 潘越雲 came out to perform.  She sat at the piano just a few feet away but played the guitar.  I thought she would be singing songs from her albums but she didn't perform any of her hit songs.  Her set consisted of only western songs all sung in English.  Her voice was amazing and I appreciated her talents even more when I saw she played guitar too.  

When she stood up to walk off stage I held out the album and in Chinese asked her if I could get an autograph.  She said yes but but she needed to put her guitar away first.  A minute later she came out and sat next to me and asked me something.  What I was doing in Taiwan, how did I learn Chinese or something like that.  I was not expecting this.  I was  so nervous and tongue tied.  I had no idea what to say.  I know we spoke a little.  Some in English, some in Chinese.  Mostly I remember the thoughts racing through my head “What should I say… what should I do… stop shaking… come on say something… ask her something…ahhh, what should I say!”  I’m pretty sure whatever I did say was uninteresting and a bit incoherent.  After a few minutes I got the impression she just gave up trying to have a conversation with me.  She autographed the album, thanked me for coming to the show and went backstage.  
My head was still spinning but I knew I was an idiot.  “Why didn’t you say something intelligent? Why couldn’t you ask her a thoughtful question?  Why didn’t you just offer to buy her a drink? You're such a fool!”  

Autographed album cover
She was scheduled to perform at the same hotel later that month as well.  On my 22nd birthday I went to see her perform again.  It went pretty much like the first show except I didn’t bring my camera or an album.  There weren’t many people at that show either and I’ve never understood why.  I didn’t say anything to her when the show ended.  Even after days of thinking about it I still didn’t know what to say to her and I knew I would still be so flustered nothing would come out right no matter how much I rehearsed it.  

As I was leaving the hotel a bellboy stopped me near the front door and started talking to me.  Just then 潘越雲 walked by escorted by two men who looked like body guards. She slowed, looked over her shoulder, caught my eye and said “再見” (see you later).  

My knees buckled.  

The bellboy was impressed.  “You know her!”  

I watched her walk out, get into a waiting car and disappear in to the night.  


  1. Great story, especially as you remember the small details! :)

    1. Thanks Eleni, it's nice to hear from you.